Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, just got a lesson in Civics… and just in time for Election Day in the U.S. (November 6th). New programming allows Alexa to provide actual answers and knowledge on election data such as where you can vote, real-time results, and even information on ballot measures and propositions. The decision to program Alexa, with real-time election data, came about after Amazon experienced high customer engagement rates during the 2016 debates and election.
With the increase of “fake news”, Amazon has taken necessary steps to ensure that only accurate information is provided. Instead of pulling news from any old source, Amazon is partnering with three main, legitimate news sites: Ballotpedia for pre-election ballot information, RealClearPolitics for updates, and the Associated Press for results. As for credibility and neutrality, these 3 partners are definitely among the best.
While Amazon has put forth a good effort in fighting election misinformation, the new feature is fairly limited in terms of what you can ask Alexa. It doesn’t offer any real answers on topics such as voting requirements or what types of voting machines are being used within a particular area. So, if you want to ask Alexa a question about the upcoming election, my best advice is to keep it simple: Where can I vote? Who is running in the election? What are the election results? If you want more in-depth information, you can always look it up on your own or have Alexa pull up a web search.
All in all, Amazon gets a thumbs up in my book. They know that it is important for citizens to go out and exercise their right to vote. And in order to do so, they need to stay properly informed. This new improvement may help ease the skepticism, especially around politics, that technology has most recently embedded in our lives.